The Reformation in China

For quite some time I’ve been interested in Christian mission work in China.  Therefore, an article in New Horizons (the OPC’s monthly periodical) caught my attention: “Prospects for the Reformed Faith in China.”  In this article, a Reformed missionary in China interviewed a Chinese Christian man who is studying for ordained ministry.  The article isn’t online yet, but soon will be (here).  Below are some parts of the interview worth mentioning.  I’ve edited them to keep them brief.  I encourage readers to check out the full interview when it’s available.

Why are Reformed theology and Presbyterianism important for the Chinese church?

One reason is that Reformed theology “can help us focus on the sovereignty of God and to live by his grace and his providence.  Second, the Reformed faith can help the Chinese church become more submissive.  …Third, Reformed Presbyterianism can help the Chinese church govern herself in an orderly way.  And if the government of the church strongly upholds Presbyterianism, the church could have a big impact on our communities and even the whole nation of China by being an example of an orderly community.”

What are some challenges of establishing Reformed churches in China?

One problem that we have had to face is that of balancing our doctrine and life.  Currently the church is progressively reforming her doctrine, and the Westminster Catechisms and systematic theology are constantly being taught, but many believers, especially church leaders, are not God-centered in their lives….  A second problem is that hypercritical attitudes within Reformed churches are common.  …Third, governance by a plurality of elders in the church is a troublesome problem in the Chinese culture.  Chinese culture does not really have an example of a system of governance by multiple, equal leaders.  …Some churches in China are governed by elders, and have even established presbyteries, yet, practically speaking, most are still governed by a bishop and have a system of centralized power.”

What kind of help do Chinese churches seeking to be Reformed need?

First of all, prayer.  I hope that all foreign Reformed churches can periodically organize small-group prayer meetings for China, especially for the leadership of the church.  …Secondly, mentorship.  Chinese elders and pastors need more connection with experienced elders and pastors.  Possible ways to provide practical help are establishing relationships through the Internet, periodically coming to China to meet and fellowship with young pastors face-to-face, and setting up mechanisms for accountability.  Thirdly, support for Christian education.  The church needs to establish more theological training centers. …Biblical commentaries are also greatly needed.  …I hope that foreign Reformed churches can help our future seminary by sending one or two supervisors to China to counsel theological students in their studies and lives.”

Again, this is just a summary; it is very much worth reading the entire interview.  One thing we can all do when it comes to missions in China is pray.  Pray that God would bless the leaders with wisdom, biblical knowledge, and love for Christ and his church.  Pray that God would give his church in China a growing passion for learning the truths of Scripture and strength to live according to it – for his glory!

rev shane lems
covenant presbyterian church
hammond, wi